It's always interesting to see a filmmaker take a well-known – and often told – tale and try to bring something fresh to the telling. The Frankenstein story has had many, many treatments over the years, probably none better than the classic 1931 James Whale version that starred Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as the monster. This new version pushes the monster very much into the background, and is more about the relationship between mad scientist Victor Frankenstein and his partner, Igor.
The two meet at the circus where the nameless "hunchback" clown (Radcliffe) is rescued by the good Dr Frankenstein (McAvoy) and cured of his affliction. He's given the name Igor, and it turns out this former clown is also a well-studied physician and anatomist – the perfect man to help Victor in his experiements to create life from death.
While firmly set in Victorian London (which is stunningly recreated here) the filmmakers bring a modern sensibility to the tale – and it mostly works. The cast is superb, with all the main players – especially Scott as a police detective obsessed with bringing the deranged scientist to justice – giving their all. McAvoy in particular shamelessly mugs his way through the film with abandon, but somehow it works and gives the character an extra edginess. And Radcliffe – an actor who seems to get better with each role he plays – is terrific, serving as a pragmatic foil to his somewhat overzealous benefactor.
Where the film falls down a little is in the script from Landis, the son of legendary director John and the man behind 2012's brilliant Chronicle. With Victor Frankenstein he has a lot of fun with the legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft's creation (such as with the doctor obsessing whether history will remember the name "Frankenstein" as being synonymous with the man or the monster). But the script is a little overstuffed, with one or two characters too many, and there's also a plot thread about Victor's brother that is not as fully explored as it should be.
Still, it's a brave attempt to bring something fresh to this classic tale and it nicely addresses modern fears about technology and mankind's obsession with trying to play god. Victor Frankenstein is well paced, full of interesting ideas and nicely brings this well-worn tale to a new audience.
EXTRAS: The behind-the-scenes featurette The Making of Victor Frankenstein (29:27); Four deleted scenes (14:17); an Image Gallery; and the Theatrical Trailer.